Representatives from the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Israel and the United States will converge in Washington on Tuesday to sign historic normalization agreements between the Gulf countries and Israel.
The deal with the United Arab Emirates, announced in August and since dubbed the “Abraham’s Accords” by White House officials, makes the United Arab Emirates the third Arab country and the first in the United Arab Emirates. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to agree to establish relations with Israel.
The deal ends the UAE’s economic boycott of Israel and allows the possibility of advanced US arms sales to the UAE. Described by the Palestinians as “betrayal,” a sentiment echoed by regional Turkish and Iranian actors, the deal will have lasting and unprecedented geopolitical ramifications, experts told Al Jazeera.
But the magnitude of these ramifications remains to be seen.
William Hartung, director of the weapons and security program at the Washington-based Center for International Policy, told Al Jazeera that arms sales were an “important factor” in the deals.
The UAE has long wanted F-35 fighter jets, Hartung said, and larger drones, which the United States has been unable to sell due to its commitment to Israel’s military advantage.
But Trump often touts arms sales and was likely to view UAE as another customer as a positive customer, Hartung said.
The United States increased its arms sales by 42% globally in 2019, an increase of nearly $ 70 billion, according to figures from the Forum on the Arms Trade (FAT) of the US Military Sales Program to abroad.
But the Middle East and North Africa region far exceeded the global growth rate, from $ 11.8 billion in 2018 to more than $ 25 billion in 2019, an increase of 118 percent. Morocco leads the pack in buying American weapons, with nearly $ 12 billion sold in Rabat.
The GCC nations made up much of the rest. The UAE spent more than $ 4.7 billion on US weapons in 2019, the FAT recorded, Bahrain spending $ 3.37 billion, Qatar spending around $ 3 billion, and Saudi Arabia spending around $ 3 billion. $ 2.7 billion.
Hartung said Bahrain may have accepted the normalization of access to advanced weapons and that the Saudis could potentially follow.
“Bahrain certainly benefited from US transfers after Trump lifted his grip on the F-16s … so they can feel somewhat indebted to him on that front,” Hartung said, citing a 2017 decision to sell the F-16s. planes in Bahrain without conditions on human rights.
However, the status of an F-35 deal with the United Arab Emirates remains questionable, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces criticism from his right-wing base as his political fortunes dwindle.
Regarding domestic political victories, Hartung said the Trump administration could “brag” about normalization during the presidential campaign and perhaps brag about the jobs of the F-35 program.
It can also “polish the F-35 program,” which has cost US taxpayers trillions and is criticized for its cost and ineffectiveness, Hartung noted.
The move can “also be seen as a step to contain Iran further,” a target of the Trump administration’s wrath and a regional enemy of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel, although Hartung said no not see it as an advantage.
Jon Alterman, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told Al Jazeera that if the Gulf countries normalizing their relations with Israel raise new questions, it is “an unusual dedication to traditional diplomacy. from the Trump administration ”.
Alterman said the deal with the United Arab Emirates shows the Trump administration is capable of diplomatic maneuvers outside of action. ” things quickly with the presidential involvement ”.
However, concerns remain about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Alterman said. The normalization deal could pave the way for other major Arab states to normalize their relations with Israel without addressing the underlying issues of the conflict.
“We still have a long way to go to resolve the long-standing conflict,” Alterman said. “Hopefully this marks an effort to redouble our efforts rather than pretending it’s resolved. ”
While much of the focus is on regional implications for Arab states, Alterman wrote for the SCRS that he could provide a “more robust and inclusive regional dialogue could be a constructive way to reduce tensions.” between Israel, Turkey and Iran, three of the most powerful countries – not Arabs.
The view of Tehran
Israel and countries like the UAE and Bahrain, which is a Shiite majority nation with a Sunni monarchy, have long had a common interest in keeping Iran at bay.
But Assal Rad, a senior researcher at the Iranian-American National Council, does not think containing Iran was part of the “calculation on the UAE side.”
The United Arab Emirates and Iran have long-standing economic ties, and a sizable diaspora of around 500,000 Iranians live in the Emirates, primarily in Dubai.
UAE’s exports to Iran totaled $ 10.23 billion in 2018, according to UN figures cited by Trading Economics, making it one of Iran’s major trading partners.
But Rad does not “see normalization as taking an anti-Iranian position and aligning with Israel,” she said.
If the UAE adopts an anti-Iran strategy, recent meetings between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who will lead the delegation of United Arab Emirates in Washington on Tuesday would not have taken place.
“He’s trying to kind of balance. I don’t see it as an anti-Iran movement. They wanted advanced weapons … which this agreement makes possible. “
The broader strategy
Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincey Institute for Responsible Statecraft, told Al Jazeera that the deal and possible sales of advanced weapons could further threaten regional stability, but not in Iran, and it’s still unclear. how enthusiastic UAE leadership can be at the national level.
“On the one hand, they want it, but … it doesn’t sound like trust when [Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan] is not going to show up at the signing ceremony in the United States, ”Parsi commented.
But normalization could lead to a “emboldened” UAE in Yemen in Libya, he continued.
|Video reportedly shows UAE involvement in Libya (2:34)|
Parsi pointed to Saudi Arabia, which he said gained tacit approval for “reckless” military actions in Yemen by buying American weapons.
“They operate under the impression that they have the protection of the United States… To date, even when Congress twice voted to end the war in Yemen, the President has vetoed it twice. ”
Although the UAE has scaled back its actions in Yemen, it is still active there and concerns remain over military actions in Libya, Parsi warned.
Alterman, for his part, said normalization was not a “jail release card” for the UAE.
The next election could shift U.S. strategy toward the Gulf as a broader discussion of how much effort the U.S. should devote to the region continues, which weighs on the Gulf states, Alterman said.
“Ultimately, the United States has a broader regional strategy [more important] as any of its individual relationships with “individual states,” Alterman said, and “each country must understand how it must shape its relationship” as part of said US strategy.
Standardization “represents a start of the UAE’s answer” to this question, Alterman concluded.